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Something new is in bloom in the Idea Garden. This solar demonstration system (pictured left) is a “flowery” example of a much larger commitment that Longwood Gardens’ has made to environmental stewardship. Next to the entrance ramps to our main parking lot and Visitor Center is a 10-acre field containing 6,669 solar panels. On May 27, this solar production facility began generating electricity and was officially commissioned on June 16. One of the largest examples of clean, emission-free energy in the region, the solar field produces 1.2 MW (megawatts) of power and will produce 1.5 MW when the final panels are installed in the coming weeks.
More about Longwood’s solar field
The fixed-tilt, 1.5 MW solar installation will produce enough electricity to offset the usage of approximately 138 average Pennsylvania homes and reduce Longwood’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1,367 tons.
"We are always looking for ways to advance our sustainable practices,” says Paul Redman, Longwood Gardens Director. “It is integral to Longwood’s mission to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. We want to establish best practices and lead the way in showing communities how to live responsibly."
Longwood Gardens is partnering with two leading solar energy firms on the project. groSolar of Burlington, VT is engineering and installing the grid-tied field, which consists of two arrays and more than 5,000 panels. New York-based EcogySolar owns and operates the arrays through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Through the PPA, EcogySolar owns the solar equipment and will sell the power produced to Longwood Gardens. The panels were manufactured by Motech Americas of Delaware. More than 90% of the materials for the project were made in the US.
Unlike many solar projects that are built on flat, gravel-covered or paved ground, Longwood is striving to create a pleasing aesthetic respectful of the Brandywine Valley landscape and community. The panels are placed on the natural undulating terrain and Longwood plans to make the most of the field’s horticultural potential. The Gardens will plant a combination of native, low-growing plant material in an effort to create a meadow-like landscape.
“We wanted to utilize our horticultural expertise and create a new landscape model for solar fields,” says Redman, “We want to show that solar fields can be beautiful as well as functional.”
The field will produce about 2 million kilowatt hours per year, which is the electrical equivalent of powering 181 average homes. It is expected to offset our energy consumption by nearly 28 percent.
More about the solar demonstration system in the Idea Garden
Our solar flower demonstration system operates with dual axis tracking, which means it will move with the sun to capture the maximum amount of light energy possible. The solar panels will move slowly as the sun moves during the day – just like a real sunflower!
Longwood uses the energy produced by this display, too, about 1,152 watts on a bright sunny day or about the same output as an average household outlet.
Just how much solar energy are we capturing?
Visit solar.longwoodgardens.org, Longwood Gardens’ online solar data kiosk, to see how many kilowatt hours our solar field produces weekly, monthly, and annually.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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